Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Archbishop of Canterbury address

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, has just delivered his second address to the bishops, and summarized the competing points of view in the Anglican Communion. Rowan asked them (and us) to consider the following question:

"Whatever your views on this, at least ask the question : 'Having heard the other person, the other group, as fully and fairly as I can, what generous initiative can I take to break through into a new and transformed relation of communion in Christ?' "

Fair question. I invite your comment (but please read his address first at the link above).


William said...


I read Rowan's address over the lunch hour, and was impressed and moved by his examination of the issues.

But to answer his question directly: I genuinely don't know what "generous initiative" I could offer that would lead to a new and stronger Anglican Communion. Better and more learned minds than mine have pondered variations of the same question and come up with next to nothing. I pray that the Lambeth deliberations lead to something that would point to the way forward in a way that reconciles everyone. While we are taught to believe in miracles and to be fools for Christ, I have no realistic hope that my prayers will be answered.

The two sides of this controversy--and I think Rowan is perceptive and magnanimous in his characterization of their points of view--have deep and irreconcilable differences.

I cannot conceive of either side being in a position now or in the foreseeable future to offer a generous concession that would not violate, in deeply felt ways, their own consciences and the perceived rights of their members.

To put it in more concrete terms, the price of the Episcopal Church remaining, in the eyes of its opponents, a member in good standing of the Communion would be to promise for the foreseeable future that no more openly gay bishops be consecrated and that we would prohibit same-gender marriages. Our bishops lack the authority to promise even that--both are matters for General Convention to decide--and it is not clear to me where that promise would lead even in the short term. What could our critics offer us in return?

Here is the best I can devise: The Global South has already made known its intention to form some sort of alternative sub-communion, a cross-province structure of like believers. Perhaps the Episcopal Church can best respond by withdrawing from active membership in the Communion until such time as the wounds heal. Keeping our link, however tenuous, with Canterbury is worth it. Selling out the least among is not.


The Rev. James Richardson said...

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I agree with your analysis. Interesting idea about withdrawing from the Anglican Communion, but then would the Church of England and the Church of Canada also end up withdrawing?